|Directed by||Daniel Lee|
|Produced by||Wang Tianyun
|Written by||Daniel Lee
|Music by||Henry Lai|
|Edited by||Cheung Ka-fai
Shanghai Film Group
Visualizer Film Productions
|Distributed by||Arclight Films
14 Blades is a 2010 wuxia film directed by Daniel Lee, starring Donnie Yen, Zhao Wei, Wu Chun, Kate Tsui and Qi Yuwu. The film was released on 4 February 2010 in China and on 11 February 2010 in Hong Kong. It received mixed reviews with critics focusing their praise on Yen and Zhao.
During the late Ming Dynasty, the imperial court is plagued by corruption and the reigning emperor is incompetent. The Jinyiwei are the government's secret police, orphans trained in cruel clandestine combat since childhood to produce the strongest martial artists. The Jinyiwei are in charge of conducting missions to ensure peace and stability within the empire. They have the authority to prosecute anyone deemed an enemy of the state and they devote their lives and lethal prowess, serving the emperor only. A commander, Qinglong, was recognized for his strength and given a mechanical box of 14 blades to help him interrogate and kill. Jia Jingzhong, the royal eunuch, plots rebellion with the emperor's uncle, Prince Qing (Sammo Hung), who was exiled and had his legs cut off for an unsuccessful rebellion many years previous. Jia Jingzhong orders Qinglong (Donnie Yen), to retrieve a safe box in the possession of the imperial councilor, Zhao Shenyan, whom he accuses of planning a revolt; Qinglong is told that the box contains proof of the councilor's treason.
However, Qinglong soon discovers that he had been used, as the hidden box contained the Imperial Seal, a symbol of the emperor's authority, which Jia Jingzhong needs to legitimize Prince Qing's authority as the rebellion begins. Qinglong was betrayed by his fellow Jinyiwei and his most trusted officers are killed by his brother-at-arms, Xuan Wu; Qinglong himself becomes a fugitive when Jia Jingzhong denounces him as a traitor and orders his arrest. Qinglong escapes, but only after being injured. Unable to leave the city limits, he finds his way to the failing Justice Escort Agency (ancient armed protection escorts). The business is in major debt and can no longer maintain their services and Qinglong appears just as they have decided to close business. The owner eagerly accepts Qinglong's offer to pay him handsomely for safe passage and decides to take up the mission in hopes to revitalize his business.
By coincidence, the escort's daughter, Qiao Hua (Zhao Wei), has been proposed and the escort agency has hidden Qinglong within her wedding carriage as a means to avoid detection by the guards so they can leave the city. As Qinglong recovers, Qiao Hua develops a fascination with him. Things become difficult as another group of Jinyiwei arrived in search of Qinglong. However, he recovered enough to kill his pursuers, but doing so revealed to his escorts that he's Jinyiwei himself. Fearing more trouble than they bargained for, the owner offered to return Qinglong's money and asks his crew to be left in peace; Qinglong is determined to fulfill his duty and takes Qiao Hua as a hostage. He commands her father to intentionally spread false information about his whereabouts to throw his pursuers off the scent and promises to return his daughter in one piece if he does. Qinglong is determined to fulfill his duty to the emperor and he continues to search for evidence of Prince Qing's plot while undermining the prince's activities. In the interim, Qiao Hau gets to know Qinglong better and realized and despite misgivings about his actions and obsessive vendetta, she develops feelings for him, but he maintains a cold distance to avoid attachment.
The pair arrive at the Uyghur city of Yanmen, where Qinglong hopes to gather intelligence and soon discovers that his enemies intend to sell three provinces to attain large funds for their cause. While Qinglong investigates the treason and plots his next move, the duo encounters the Heaven's Eagles Gang, a group of bandits led by the self-proclaimed "Judge of the Desert". The leader is a strong warrior and wants to test Qinglong's strength; the two enter a series of challenges, ultimately to be fairly evenly matched. After a draw, Qinglong proposes an alliance to raid the Yanmen outpost: the gang will get their full cut of the booty while Qinglong gets to satisfy his personal objectives. Standing in Qinglong's way are Jia Jingzhong's henchmen and his former Jinyiwei fellows, as well as Prince Qing's adoptive daughter Tou-Tou (Kate Tsui), a highly skilled warrior. Before the raid is executed, Jia Jingzhong was betrayed and killed by Xuan Wu, who intends to directly serve under Prince Qing.
Qinglong and the Heaven's Eagles Gang successfully raided the outpost and killed most of the soldiers. Qinglong faces off against Xuan Wu, but Xuan wasn't strong as Xuan; he escapes by throwing away the seal, forcing Qinglong to give up chase for the seal. The gold that was meant to purchase the three provinces is taken by the Judge of the Desert, who is still confused as to why Qinglong wouldn't want any of it; Qinglong is more than content in retrieving the royal seal. Qinglong returns to his horse and discovers that Tou-Tou had kidnapped Qiao Hua and demands the seal back in exchange for freeing her. Qiao Hua was doubtful that Qinglong will make the trade, given his sometimes cold behavior towards her and his fixation with his mission; she is surprised and moved when Qinglong gives up the seal to make the exchange. However, he also makes it clear that he intends to take Qiao Hua to her fiance. Sometime later, both the Heaven's Eagle's Gang as well as the Justice Escort Agency realized Qinglong's true purpose was to to stop Prince Qing's rebellion. Realizing at the scale of death and suffering it could cause, both groups decided to help Qinglong. All parties would meet in battle at the ancient ruined Sky Wolves City.
Qinglong and the agency's men set an elaborate trap, where they trick the enemy's troops into firing upon each other and halved their forces by crushing them with boulders. Although they lose some men, Qinglong and his allies were victorious. Xuan Wu was among the defeated and Xuan plays upon Qinglong's guilt and mercy to escape execution. Just as Qinglong's back was turned, Xuan Wu tried to kill him and Qinglong is forced to slay a man he once considered a brother. In another battle, Qiao Hua dresses like Qinglong to distract Tou-Tou and kept her from assisting her allies, however, she has no martial arts training and was about to be killed. The Judge of the Desert intervenes and dueled Tuo-Tuo, but is mortally wounded while saving Qiao Hua from a stray attack. After defeating the Jinyiwei and their allies, Qinglong gives the Imperial Seal to Qiao Hua and instructs her to bring it to the authorities to alert them of Prince Qing's conspiracy. Qiao Hua tells Qinglong she has declined her wedding proposal, suggesting she wants to be with Qinglong, but he believes he's likely to die, though he tells her they will meet again if she rings a bell bracelet he had previously given her initially after abducting her. The two embraced and Qinglong asks Qiao Hua to wait for him after facing Tou-Tou.
In an abandoned temple, Qinglong faces Tou-Tou in a duel to the death and are evenly matched. Her flash-stepping and sword-whip proved to be a challenge. Unwilling to let her leave the temple, Qinglong held Tou-Tou down. In a suicide maneuver, he set his box to fire four golden blades to kill both Tou-Tou and himself; the blades mortally wounded both, killing both combatants.
In the aftermath, Prince Qing's rebellion fails. He mourns for Tou-Tou's death and later commits suicide before being brought to trial for his conspiracy. Qiao Hua's father passes away and she inherits the Justice Escort Agency; she now dresses much like Qinglong used to. With the money they earned, the business is able to thrive again and Qiao Hua promised her father to keep the agency running. During her travels, she frequently detours along the desert roads to remember her adventures with Qinglong and on one such foray, while looking across the desert with her telescope and ringing her bell, she tearfully sees a man who appears much like Qinglong in the distance.
- Donnie Yen as Qinglong
- Zhao Wei as Qiao Hua
- Wu Chun as Judge of the Desert
- Kate Tsui as Tuotuo
- Qi Yuwu as Xuanwu
- Sammo Hung as Prince Qing
- Damian Lau as Zhao Shenyan
- Wu Ma as Qiao Yong
- Law Kar-ying as Jia Jingzhong
- Chen Kuan-tai as Fawang
- Chen Zhihui as Baihu
- Fung Hak-on as advisor
- Xu Xiangdong as Xiahou
- Liu Zhuoling as servant
- Zhang Yujiao as Zhao Shouzheng
- Ding Wenbin as Jifeng
- Jin Laiqun as Zhuque
- Qiu Bo
- Bian Yang
- Zhu Jiazhen
14 Blades was scheduled to start filming on 14 May 2009 in Ningxia, China. Donnie Yen stated that he took the role of a villain in the film as he "wanted to tackle the role of a villain who discovers his humanity."
14 Blades premiered in China and Singapore on 4 February 2010 and in Hong Kong on 11 February. The film premiered at the seventh place in the Hong Kong box office, grossing US$317,975 in its first week. It grossed a total of US$984,711 at the Hong Kong box office. The film was successful in Singapore where it was first in the box office on its second week, grossing a total of US$1,126,692 on its theatrical run. The film grossed a total of US$3,676,875 worldwide.
14 Blades was nominated for Best Action Choreography and Best Sound Design at the 29th Hong Kong Film Awards. The China Post praised Donnie Yen's acting ability and stated that the film was generally entertaining but criticised the action scenes, saying "you never actually clearly see even one of the 14 blades. Unlike a really decent martial arts film, in which the battle scenes are well choreographed and you see the majority of the action, this film's fight scenes were only dynamic."
Many reviewers also criticised the film's heavy use of technology, also indicating Kate Tsui's clothes-shedding technique. Film Business Asia gave the film a six out of ten, stating that 14 Blades has a "script that becomes increasingly incoherent and restless editing that grows more and more distracting" and that the action scenes were "largely dependant on wire-fu and CG...when [Donnie] Yen is allowed to show his skills properly...14 Blades starts to look like the film it could have been."
Variety called 14 Blades an "above-average martial-arts actioner that reinforces Donnie Yen's "Man with No Name" ambience.", "Despite the circumstances, Qiao Hua falls in love with her captor, a development made believable by Zhao's warm and affecting perf. [sic] Yen's Eastwood-like poise is used to good effect here, and the romantic tension keeps the narrative effectively taut between the battle sequences."
The Hollywood Reporter wrote that the film "would have ended a mediocre film if not for the inventively designed and utilized weaponry (especially the titular 14 blades with different functions)" and had mixed reaction to the acting in the film, asserting that Donnie Yen's "stiff and steely demeanor actually works to his role's favor. The love interest with Qiao Hua is lame, especially with Zhao sleepwalking through another typecast role as playful, tomboyish heroine."
Awards and nominations
- 4th China (Ningbo) Famers Film Festival
- Nominated: Best Action Choreography (Guk Hin-chiu)
- Nominated: Best Sound Design (Ken Wong and Phyllis Cheng)
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